Ben Dankaka is a young Nigerian who is changing lives in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja. In this online interview with Elanza News, Dankaka speaks on how his meeting with US President Barrack Obama has helped him to change many lives for good. He also spoke on some other National and International issues. Read more.
Can we know more about you?
Well, I was born in Kaduna, the fifth child in a very big family. I attended Command Children (Primary) School, and Command Secondary School before transferring to the Federal Government College in Kaduna where I completed my high school education. I intended to study law because there was no lawyer in the family and my parents really wished for one, but I couldn’t secure an admission to study law instead I acquired a degree in English (Literature) from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I have over ten years of work experience in social development. In 2008, I served as member of the Debate to Action, Nigeria (Kaduna Cluster), a British Council and World Bank Initiative aimed at youth leaders in East and West Africa and the United Kingdom. In 2009, I also participated in the Top12 Nigeria Youth Works and gained an award for promoting literacy development in Nigeria. In 2015, my modest efforts in the development sector were recognized with two major international honours. One was an invitation to reduce the world’s number of out-of-school children by serving as one of 500 “A World at School” Global Youth Ambassadors. The other was a prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship through the US Department of State. The Fellowship supported me for six weeks of study in Public Management at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, in the USA. At the Fellowship’s conclusion I attended a Presidential Summit in Washington where we had a town hall meeting with President Obama.
What was your experience after meeting Obama during the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship Programme in the US?
So far, it has been the most memorable experience of my life. You see, in 2009 my team and I created an eight paged journal, titled “Leaders Digest”. The purpose was to capture the lives of certain notable individuals we felt young people would like to emulate. Barrack Obama was the first on our list. While I was writing inspiring stories about Obama it never crossed my mind that I would, one day have the opportunity to meet him in person. So you can imagine how I felt sitting in the same room with a man I considered as one of the most significant personalities of this generation. A man I once thought could only be seen on television or magazines. It was unbelievable! As I listened to President Obama speak on how African youth can move the continent forward, I felt the force of the “yes we can” spirit on me. I left that hall highly motivated and determined to continue my work of promoting reading and leadership development not only in Nigeria but in the entire African continent.
What do you do at Global Leaders and Readers Club?
Essentially, we promote reading culture and leadership development. We reach out to young people and adults.
What inspired the campaign?
It all started when I stumbled on the statement that “if you want to hide anything from a Black person, put it in a book.” That’s one statement any serious African should ponder. But then many would simply laugh or admit it and do nothing. But I decided to do something about it. At Global Leaders & Readers Club, it is not the poor reading culture that most worries us. The main trouble is our attitude towards reading. Most Africans read not because they want to acquire knowledge but for the reason that they want to excel in examinations or acquire academic titles. Africans don’t take reading seriously whenever they are outside the four walls of the classroom. So when an African can’t afford to go to school, he or she languishes in ignorance because they think reading is only important in schools. That is what we are trying to change. We want to develop a new generation of leaders who would not only be interested in acquiring academic certificates or titles but would also have a deep desire for the kind of knowledge that would help them become great career leaders.
How do you promote reading culture and leadership development?
It’s simple. We usually contact schools and request for permission to introduce a reading campaign to their students through workshops. And if the school does not have a reading club, we create one. The campaign is further continued and sustained by nurturing the clubs.
What is the gain of this campaign in FCT Public Schools?
Our current reading campaign in FCT Public Schools is supported by the US Embassy through the Mandela Washington Fellowship. This is a program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). First and foremost, our target group are the public schools situated in the rural areas. This is so, because when you travel to the rural communities, you will find students with limited access to educational tools yet saddled with the challenge of competing for career opportunities along with their counterparts in the cities who often have easier access to information. Through our campaign, we are bridging this gap. Again, we are not just on a reading campaign but also embarking on a library project for the schools. Through partnerships with both local and international organizations, we hope to build mini-libraries in each of the schools visited.
What is your role as a Global Youth Ambassador?
I became a Global Youth Ambassador through A World at School Programme. This is a digital mobilization campaign launched in 2013. It is a movement of hundreds of thousands of people from more than 250 civil society, international and non-governmental organizations. We believe education is the key to opportunity and the right of every child. With the number of out-of-school children on the rise, we campaign under the A World at School banner to make noise and champion the work done to accelerate progress in education. So it is a voluntary position and I do not receive any payment for acting as a Global Youth Ambassador.